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August 22, 2008
City takes steps to become more pedestrian-friendly
The City of Toronto is signalling a new direction in traffic management with a Pedestrian Priority Phase to be implemented at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas Streets beginning on Thursday, August 28. With the introduction of this new initiative, the City is giving priority status to pedestrians by allowing walkers to cross in any direction, including diagonally.

“I am very proud of the City’s Transportation Services Division for advancing the interests of pedestrians in Toronto as part of the Sustainable Transportation Initiatives Plan,” said Councillor Kyle Rae (Ward 27, Chair of the Economic Development and Culture Committee). “This is a significant milestone for us because for the first time we are giving priority status to the pedestrian over every other mode of travel.”

“With plans for future growth, a safe, and sustainable transportation network that is friendly to pedestrians and the environment must take priority in Toronto,” said Gary Welsh, General Manager, Transportation Services Division. “This goal will be achieved through a combination of technical, behavioural and structural changes such as the Pedestrian Priority Phase.”

The Pedestrian Priority Phase has been implemented in a number of other jurisdictions and has reduced conflict between pedestrians and vehicles by separating the flow of traffic and the movement of pedestrians. During Phase A, pedestrians will have exclusive access to the intersection as the traffic lights will be red in all directions to motorists.

“Yonge and Dundas is one of the busiest intersections in the city of Toronto,” added Councillor Rae. “But with the introduction of an exclusive right-of-way for pedestrians, everyone can feel more confident of making it through the intersection safely.”

To help ensure the smooth transition to a Pedestrian Priority Phase at Yonge and Dundas, the City’s Transportation Services Division will:
• adjust the timing of lights to allow pedestrians to safely clear the intersection
• enhance the Accessible Pedestrian Signals to assist the blind and visually impaired
• monitor the intersection to determine whether any adjustments need to be made
• provide traffic assistants initially to help pedestrians cross through the intersection.

Other intersections where the Pedestrian Priority Phase will be considered for future implementation include: Yonge and Bloor Streets, Bay Street and Bloor Street West, and Bay Street and Dundas Street West. For more information about pedestrian initiatives, visit

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contacts:
Councillor Kyle Rae, Chair, Economic Development and Culture Committee, 416-392-7903;
Steve Johnston, Sr. Communications Co-ordinator, 416-392-4391,


Backgrounder - Pedestrian Priority Phase at signalized intersections

A Pedestrian Priority Phase is a traffic signal phase that allows pedestrians to cross a signalized intersection in all directions while traffic is stopped. When a Pedestrian Priority Phase is in effect, a red signal is shown for all vehicles while the “walk” display is shown in all directions for pedestrians, including diagonally across the intersection.

This activity is used at intersections with heavy pedestrian traffic. It is intended to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles by providing exclusive phases for pedestrians.

The first intersection chosen for a Pedestrian Priority Phase is Yonge Street and Dundas Street. Future locations being considered include: Yonge and Bloor Streets, Bay Street and Bloor Street West, and Bay Street and Dundas Street West.

The Pedestrian Priority Phase was one of the enhanced pedestrian features identified in Toronto’s Sustainable Transportation Initiatives Plan and is consistent with the policies and objectives contained in the City’s Official Plan and Climate Change Plan.

The Pedestrian Priority Phase is also called the “scramble phase,” “scramble light,” “scramble corners” and “Barnes Dance.” The latter was named after Henry Barnes, a prominent traffic engineer who was credited as the first to use this system of pedestrian crossings in such United States cities as Kansas City, KS; Vancouver, WA; Denver, CO; Baltimore, MD; and New York City, NY. The terminology came from a newspaper article that stated “Barnes made the people so happy they’re dancing in the streets.”

Currently, several cities around the world use the Pedestrian Priority Phase, including Tokyo, JP; San Francisco, CA; Beverly Hills, CA, Miami, FL; and Denver, CO. In addition, Auckland, NZ; and New South Wales, AU also use this technology and several other Australian cities use other types of Pedestrian Priority Phases.

Media contact:
Steve Johnston, Sr. Communications Co-ordinator, 416-392-4391,



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